Word of Love,
enter our hearts
as you entered the virgin’s womb.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Madeleine L’Engle, Miracle on 10th St
I’ve been trying to preach from Isaiah during Advent, and I’m going to at least start in Isaiah today. We’ve come to a well-known verse: it’s Isaiah 7.14.
Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
What’s does that mean? What was Isaiah talking about? Let’s see, shall we? Isaiah was addressing Ahaz, the king of Judah. Ahaz was facing a difficult situation.
Back then, about 800 BC, the country we know as Israel was divided in two. The northern part was called Israel; the southern part was Judah. Judah was under military threat from Israel and also from Syria, which is where Syria is today. Israel and Syria wanted a three-nation alliance to fight off an invasion from an invasion from Assyria, which is where Iraq is now.
The city of Jerusalem was in Judah, and that’s where Isaiah and Ahaz were. Isaiah’s prophetic word was for King Ahaz to trust God, rather than form any kind of military alliance.
That’s enough history. Ahaz was in a pickle, Isaiah was counselling him to trust in God. And Isaiah says,
Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
It can be anything in all creation! Ask away, Ahaz!
But Ahaz replies,
I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.
What an interesting answer! It’s pious (‘I will not put the Lord to the test’). It also neatly avoids having anything to do with God.
Ahaz must have been to diplomacy school.
Isaiah isn’t satisfied though. So, he says,
the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.